The first net zero transatlantic flight? It is the one that will leave next year from London Heathrow airport to land about seven hours later at the John F. Kennedy in New York. It is the project launched by the British government that will financially support Virgin Atlantic to make it possible. The initiative also involves Rolls-Royce, Boeing, Imperial College London, the University of Sheffield, the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) and ICF and was greeted in mid-December by the UK Department of Transport with great satisfaction.
“For decades, flying from London to New York has symbolised aviation’s ability to connect people and drive international progress. It’s now going to be at the forefront of cutting carbon emissions from flying”, said transport secretary Mark Harper. “Not only will this flight pave the way for future generations, but it will demonstrate just how much we can achieve when we work together on a shared goal – bringing together some of the best businesses and academics in the world and led by a British airline”.
But beyond the easy enthusiasms is good to make a clarification: the first transatlantic flight net zero CO2 will not be really emission-free. The initiative will involve a Boeing 787 Virgin Atlantic equipped with engines Rolls-Royce Trent 1000. Only a sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) made from waste oils and fats will be used instead of traditional kerosene. It is estimated that SAF can reduce carbon emissions by more than 70% compared to conventional fossil fuel over the entire life cycle. And the remaining part? It will be compensated through carbon credits generated by CO2 removal projects in biochar.
“As an airline founded on and committed to innovation, we’re proud to lead a cross-industry consortium of partners to make aviation history by operating the first ever 100% SAF flight across the Atlantic. Virgin Atlantic’s inaugural flight in 1984 was to New York and today it continues to be one of our most popular routes. It will be an honour to pave the way for this important business and leisure route to become even more sustainable“, said Shai Weiss, Virgin Atlantic CEO.